CONNOR Wickham says he and his England Under-21 team-mates “let the country down” with their dismal showing in the European Championship finals.
And the Sunderland striker refused to accept the excuse that failure was down to several star names like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones being spirited away for duty with Roy Hodgson’s senior side.
Stuart Pearce’s men crashed out of a competition which they entered as one of the hot pre-tournament favourite after failing to take a single point from their three group games.
The young England side had gone to the finals in Israel full of confidence and bravado after notching a record of nine straight wins without conceding a single goal, only to lose to Italy, Norway and Israel and go crashing out with egg on their faces.
Asked to sum up the feeling in the dressing room after Tuesday’s shock defeat to Israel, the last of their trio of defeats, the Black Cats forward said: “Devastation.”
He added: “I don’t think there are any players in there that are going to be proud of what we have put in.
“We have let the country down and we have let ourselves down in the tournament.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you what has gone wrong. I think coming into the tournament we had a lot of confidence.
“We knew we had strength in numbers but obviously when it came down to it we just weren’t good enough.”
Pearce made it clear he thought England would have prospered had more of their star players been available, but Wickham felt that a side which also featured Sunderland target Danny Rose and Liverpool’s ex-Black Cats midfielder Jordan Henderson should still have done better.
“The players that are in the dressing room have more than enough quality to go out and do the job,” he said.
“When it came down to it, we just didn’t step up to the mark.”
At the age of 20, Wickham is young enough to still be eligible for the Under-21s when the next major tournament comes around in 2015.
But that is no consolation for the young striker, who says he just wants to focus on his club career at the Stadium of Light right now.
“For now, it is just back to the club, work as hard as I can and try to get into that team,” he said.
“Now, obviously, there is nothing we can do about this tournament – it has gone.
“For me personally, I am looking to the next one, but first and foremost I want to get back into the Sunderland team and starting to play football again.”